Music plays a big part in how we feel. And there are certain songs we like to listen to when we’re down. So today, I’m counting down my favorite sad songs. Also, when compiling the list, I stuck to an adament one-song-per-artist rule.

1.      Tuesday’s Gone by Lynard Skynard: I’ll admit it. Lynard Skynard is kind of hit and miss with me, but as you can imagine since it’s here, I consider this one of their hits. For me, one of the things Ireally like is the way this song builds. It starts out with a classic organ hook (which I’ve been trying to learn to play). The lyrics are okay – pretty standard breakup stuff, but the way they’re sung really tells the story. In the middle, there’s some pretty wicked guitar work and a piano solo that has me green with envy wishing I could play like that. And the way the drums changes is interesting: At first, there just a standard beat, but as it progresses, the fills get crazier and more frequent. Also, I love the way the string section comes and goes in this song, creating this big feel for the song.

2.      Hurt by Johnny Cash: Considering I’ve talked in the past about being a big Johnny Cash fan, it should come as no surprise that this one made the cut. Yeah, there’s a reason that even though this is a cover, everyone considers this Cash’s song. Even Trent Reznor said this is now Cash’s song. (And to be fair, the original NIN nails song is pretty good.) One of the reasons I like Johnny Cash so much is that he was such an emotional singer. Here, he taps into his real experiences with drug addiction to sing an absolutely heartbreaking song. It’s impressive that Cash could still belt it out at his age and I think the fact that he sang it at such a late age added to the song. The extra quaver in his voice makes him sound more broken down–adding to the sadness.

3.      I Never Cry by Alice Cooper: I have a confession. For the longest time, I’ve misinterpreted this song. I thought it was about bottling up one’s emotions and Cooper separating himself from the ones he loves. Actually, it’s about Alice Cooper’s battle with alcoholism. He used it to… well… do all the things I just described. So I was half right. The song starts out in a very understated manner but eventually rises up without becoming too over-the-top. When most people think Alice Cooper, they think of his on-stage shock rock antics. And having seen him live, I can assure you the man knows how to put on one hell of a show.  But his singing here, shows that he could tap into a more emotive quality.

4.      King of Pain by the Police: In trying to decide a Police song, it was a toss-up between this or “Can’t Stand Losing You.” That is a great song, and a ripe candidate since it explicitly talks about a man deciding to commit suicide. So how could anything top that in terms of gloominess? Well, for starters, “Can’t Stand Losing You” is a reggae song, so by definition the music is automatically upbeat… even if the lyrics are extremely downbeat. “King of Pain” announces its gloomy nature from the very beginning with its downbeat piano chords and Sting’s distant-sounding singing, you know this one isn’t going to be happy. Lyrically, “Can’t Stand Losing You” starts out as a traditional break-up song. In fact, when I introduced my brother to that song, he thought it was awesome the way it transitions from an almost comical song to such a depressing song. Oh yeah, this is supposed to be about “King of Pain”, isn’t it? The lyrics of “King of Pain” are just an onslaught of unhappy imagery (“There’s a skeleton choking on a crust of bread”;). Hmm, I guess I did get to talk about both songs. Though I will admit that when I see it on the list, I put serious consideration to singing “King of Pain” at karaoke just because it’s such a downer.

5.      I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues by Elton John: What gave away that this one would be on the list? A certain stalker-tastic video I made with this song? The fact that I’m obsessed with trying to learn this song on piano? Oh yeah, you’d have to live with me to know I’m obsessed with trying to learn this song. Maybe you guessed it would be here because this article is named after an Elton John song. As I’ve mentioned before, Elton John is one of my favorite artists and this song is an example of why: Elton really knows how to make the piano “talk”in the intro that perfectly sets the mood. The lyrics (the work of BernieTaupin) really paint a picture of lovers separated. The harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder has this certain quality where it’s sad but has this vaguely optimistic tone – like maybe someday things will get better. Although the songis a ballad, Elton sings it with a very soulful flair, and he really cranks up the soul during live performances.

So, that’s my list of my favorite sad songs – good for a really bad mood. But if these got you too down, tune in later this week, when I countdown my favorite songs for a good mood

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